Your (Literary) Crush's Crush
LISTEN: As the writers dish on their literary crushes.
Literary crushes—we all have them. There's a particular kind of attraction that can develop between a reader and a book, with the writer or a character within it. Have you ever wondered who writers crush on? Award winning writers Michelle Tea (Valencia, Mermaid in Chelsea Creek), Eileen Myles (Chelsea Girls, Cool for You), and Emmy-nominated Jill Soloway (Six-Feet Under, Transparent) dish about their own literary crushes.
Artist Josh Greene's current exhibition at The CJM, Bound to Be Held: A Book Show, also includes Greene's project Read by Famous—which seeks donated books from famous or well-established individuals: Tea, Myles, and Soloway all donated to Read by Famous. In a talk on Thursday, May 7, the three writers came full circle to discuss literature, literary crushes, making it in Hollywood, and more.
Want more? Listen to the full podcast here.
Installation view of Bound to Be Held: A Book Showwith the Read by Famous submissions by Jill Soloway, Michelle Tea, and Eileen Myles.
READ: Below is the transcript of the recording.
Matt Sussman (MS): Your histories make me think about this idea of literary crushes. And, you just become so infatuated with a character or an author, you're reading everything by them or you start writing stories, or fan fiction, or whatever. Who are your literary crushes?
Michelle Tea (MT): Well obviously Eileen, yeah. And I think Maggie Nelson. It's really fun when you discover somebody and they've already written a bunch, and so then you get to really go crazy. I think that Maggie had written a few things, and I'd heard her name a lot, but I just hadn't read her stuff yet. And then I read Jane: A Murder. And I was like woah... it's like I called in sick for my life to finish that book. I read that in one sitting. I just couldn't believe it, I thought it was so smart and gripping and amazing. And then I got to read The Red Parts: A Memoir and the Bluets. And, her new book, The Argonauts, is incredible.
And who else... Oh, reading Joan Didion really late, like really late—I'm 44 and I just started reading Joan Didion but there's so much to read, so that's really exciting. It's kind of like how I felt when I was young, when I would really get in a band, like when I was a teenager you know, and I would get into some band that had broken up ten years before but they were new to me, so you could get all of their albums and just get really obsessed with them, it was fun.
MS: Did you—
Jill Soloway (JS): Are we skipping—I feel like this is The Dating Game, I'm bachelor number 2 today.
Eileen Myles (EM): We can skip the order. (Laughs.)
MS: You should feel free to jump in whenever you want.
JS: I just recently fell into a literary crush related to you as Chris Kraus: I just found that book I Love Dick. Do you guys know what that is? It's amazing. It's great to read on a plane, because you're like I'm reading a book called I Love Dick. And it's actually about that feeling of writing towards an idea of a person who—worshipping them allows you to find your voice. It's sort of about seeing God and this kind of projection of your voice onto this imaginary consumer of what you're writing. It made me want to write. It made me want to write to her. I met her last weekend. I emailed Chris Kraus. And then I read this—there's this guy who does this weekly email letter and he wrote something like "If you're the kind of person who thinks that if you only meet the person who wrote the book that you're crazy about, that you'll be happy, that you'll never be happy." Or something like that.
JS: Like you read a book and you're like, "I have to be friends with this person!" Instead of just, "I can enjoy this book." And, that was the way I felt about I Love Dick—I had to hang out with Chris Kraus.
MT: But that's how you make friends! (Laughs.)
JS: Yes, I guess so. Yeah.
EM: See, I feel like my literary crushes are people I never met, some of them are. Like um, because they're people who have shown me how to write. Like Henry Miller because he was so angry and complaining and working class. I feel like my literary—it either has to do with being female or being of a certain class. Because I think I needed to know that I could write, and that I could have permission, and that some of my feelings... Like Henry Miller started Tropic of Capricorn with "I didn't ask to be born," you know. And I just grew up thinking only spoiled kids said that, and that you couldn't... I didn't realize that that thought could really go someplace. Like you could start with a really horrendous thought, like "I didn't ask to be born," and then talk about how shitty your life was, and that you could get more and more and more power and energy from that, you know. Or Violette Leduc has a book called La Bâtarde—which is my favorite book in the world.
MT: Oh, it's the greatest book.
EM: And she starts it off with how much she hates her mother. She's sitting in the backyard with her mother, and her mother's old and she's middle age herself, and it's just like, "Ugh, I'm with this horrible woman." (Laughs.) And she just begins it with how much she hated her mother, and then she just goes through her whole female life. The writers that I think of who were literary crushes were people who just started out with these bolts of anger that were so just like, they were like the car, they just started driving down the road. And I thought, "Oh! If you could just be..."—it was like punk writing, I just thought—"if you could be really pissed off and that could drive a book, then I can write." I just got so much from those people.
MT: That's awesome.